Cape Town - A visit to his home country Morocco ended in tragedy and a fight for life for Cape runner and humanitarian, Youssef Kanouni.
Kanouni has made South Africa his home for the past three decades.
On August 29, Kanouni arrived in Morocco to visit his family and eight days later he found himself in the middle of a 6.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Morocco’s Atlas Mountains.
According to the British Red Cross, 2 800 people were killed and 300 000 affected and the toll is expected to rise.
Kanouni was sitting with his brother, Imad and friends in an apartment building in Casablanca, where he grew up, when the earth began to tremble and they were forced too flee for their lives.
“My brother and my friends were having Moroccan tea and chatting. Suddenly just after 11pm everything began to shake, the walls were vibrating.
“The ground on the first floor had a very loud sound.
“It was so scary. We were shaking due to the vibration and it lasted for about two minutes.
“When I tried to get up, I fell down, I told them we needed to move, I realised that this is an earthquake and that we need to get out.”
Kanouni did not only think of his own life but that of others: “I began shouting loudly to others inside the apartments to get out because it is dangerous to be inside.
“People began running out of their homes. Most of our structures in our cities are flats.”
Kanouni’s family called him from Cape Town when they heard the news to make sure he was safe.
“The epicentre was at the Atlas mountains and we also felt an after shock on Sunday, which was 4.9 on the Richter scale but not as powerful.”
Imad said he was just grateful to be alive.
“There has been so much devastation and death and we are just grateful for all the help, even from South African organisations who are reaching out,” he said.
The Department of International Relations and Cooperation did not respond to queries whether assistance was being given to South Africans there.
Earlier this week, Deputy President Paul Mashatile, said on behalf of President Cyril Ramaphosa that they had joined the international community in expressing their condolences.
Humanitarian organisation, Gift of the Givers, is in contact with the SA Embassy in Morocco and founder, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, has lauded Cape Peninsula University of Technology staff and students for always helping during an international disaster.
CPUT’s Bellville campus staff members were selected to travel to Morocco to assist with disaster relief efforts and were on standby.